Pie Crust 101: Conquering a culinary nightmare
The directions for making a pie crust sound ridiculously simple: "Combine flour and salt, cut in shortening, add water, and shape into a ball." But the reality is that making pastry can be tricky. Granted, it's not as complicated as boning a duck or making a swan out of spun sugar, but for many home cooks, alone in their kitchens, the process of transforming flour, shortening and water into a 9-inch pie crust is a culinary nightmare.
Even experienced cooks are afraid of pastry. What's most at issue is the amount of water to use. Too much water, and you get a tough dough. Too little, and you have a bowl of crumbs that will never come together.
We make pies all the time and know that some days the dough seems to come together by itself and other times adding the right amount of water and flour is a juggling act. But we keep at it and do whatever it takes to get it right because nothing beats homemade pie.
Without its flaky crust, buttermilk pecan pie would just be a pecan custard. Made with pecans and a small amount of buttermilk, it's a cross between two famous Southern pies: pecan pie, invented around 1930 to promote Karo syrup, and chess pie, based on 17th-century English custard pies. This buttermilk pecan pie is from Pearson Farm in Fort Valley, Ga., and is guaranteed to make anyone want to get the hang of making a pastry crust.
Buttermilk Pecan Pie
1Zc cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 to 3½ tablespoons ice water
3 eggs, beaten
1Zc cups sugar
2 tablespoons flour
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup buttermilk
1 cup pecan pieces (or chopped pecans)
1. To prepare crust, combine flour and salt in a bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle surface with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time; toss with a fork until moist and crumbly. Press mixture gently into a 5-inch circle; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 15 minutes. Flour dough lightly. Roll into circle between sheets of waxed paper on dampened countertop. Peel off top sheet. Flip into a 10-inch pie plate. Remove other sheet and press pastry to fit. Fold edge under. Flute.
2.Preheat to 275F.
3. To prepare filling, beat eggs with a whisk. Add sugar and flour; beat well. Add melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir well.
2. Sprinkle pecan pieces evenly into the pie crust; pour in egg mixture.
3. Bake about 1 hour or until golden brown and set. Serves 8.